Lower back pain - a client and a really great article appear at the same time

Don't you love it when a few different things in your life work together, or point in the same direction. I recently worked with someone with severe lower back pain. A herniated disc was ruled out by his doctor through tests and we talk about some of the changes he had made recently to help manage his intermittent but acute low back pain. He had just added yoga 2 times a week and stretching daily at home, which were positive changes and increases body awareness. I try to encourage clients to keep up with daily stretching and keep them a priority. 

A few days later, I stumbled across an article by Paulette Wendell in the Winter 2014 issue of Massage Therapy Today about the exact same thing. (The article is accessible by RMTAO members only.) It's a great article and I just wanted to share a few of the main points from the article that really struck me.

Did you know that in the USA, general low back pain (LBP) is the second most-cited reason for work absence among adults younger than 45 years (the common cold is at number one)? I was shocked by that figure, but at the same time, I can believe it. As the article points out, lower back pain can be caused by so many different things, from accidents to injuries to day-to-day life like taking care of young children. But, as Wendell also mentions "Staying appropriately active and receiving massage therapy on a regular basis are fundamental to easing LBP. Increasing body awareness, core strength and muscle flexibility can significantly help clients achieve their pain-management goals."

To clarify what 'core' or 'core strength' means, I like Wendell's definition. Core "refers to the muscles of the abdomen, pelvis, shoulders and back." 

Here are a few other points made by the article that I found interesting and/or helpful to remember:

  • While it is instinctual to protect a site of injury, clients must be made aware that the muscle-guarding instinct can evolve into an unhealthy pattern of immobilization, leading to atrophy (a decrease in muscle strength and size). 
  • Often there is no “smoking gun” with respect to pain, but a handful of seemingly innocent errors that lead to a significant pain event.
  • Performing as many daily activities as is comfortable and gentle stretching are among the ways to avoid further immobilization.
  • A 2011 study (that is described in the article in more detail) indicates that continued massage treatments may result in the long-term alleviation of LBP. 

So what does this mean for you? In short, if you are suffering from lower back pain, see an RMT (registered massage therapist) about it as soon as possible. Massage can decrease pain and improve mobility...I can also help you with a plan of stretching and exercises or refer you to other practitioners or back to your doctor, depending on what you need.